Uganda’s Vision 2040 highlights education as a crucial mechanism for economic growth by providing human capital. This had been on course until the Covid-19 pandemic struck. Covid-19 spread like wildfire from December 2019. And on March 22, Uganda got its first patient. The effects of Covid-19 have been profound in different sectors.
There has been an increased public debt due to high levels of borrowing by the government to cover its fiscal deficit, disrupted service delivery in the health sector, reduction of economic activities in retail trade, hotels and tourism, and the education sector has not been an exception.
On March 18, 2020, President Museveni with guidance from the Ministry of Health, made a decision to close schools in a bid to stop the spread of the virus. This closure affected 73,200 schools and more than 15 million learners and 548,000 teachers.
The Ministry of Education designed a preparedness and response plan to Covid-19 with a focus on continuity learning with guidance of the National Curriculum Development Centre to develop standardised study lesson packages on core subjects of Mathematics and English at primary and secondary levels to be distributed to all learners. It was rolled out in the Uganda’s newspapers as ‘Your guide away from school,’ where study pullouts could be accessed, learning programmes were placed on radios and televisions.
Study materials were distributed by local council officials to deliver them to learners.
On January 11, the Ministry of Education released the time table for Primary Leaving Examinations and Uganda Certificate of Education examinations.
The ministry scheduled the reopening of schools to January 18, with the hope of preparing students for their end of year exams. However, we have seen a turn up of less than 30 per cent of the learners in candidate classes, but this has come as a no surprise where we see 38,085 cases in Uganda with 304 deaths, which has caused fear and uncertainty in the population across the country.
Therefore, there is need to prepare the different stakeholders to absorb all the different externalities that may affect learners when opening schools.
The learners, teachers and parents need to be guided and counselled so that they can embrace and be content when it comes to their safety and that of their children.
The Ministry of Education established the Department of Guidance and Counselling in 2008. Among its objectives is to initiate and ensure effective implementation of programmes and interventions to address deviant behaviour, trauma and stress management in schools.
Over the long Covid-19 induced holiday at home, girls have been sexually abused and boys have engaged in laborious work to put food on the table.
Teachers and parents have lost property and HIV prevalence has sky rocketed. Therefore, this department will need to be activated to help learners be in their best state of mind before they can embark on doing exams .
In addition, teachers’ Saccos need to be reinforced with funding so that the teachers can access capital and be engaged in income generating activities as to have a financial muscle more so attain financial literacy.
In the end, different stakeholders will be at per and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 of access to quality education for both primary and secondary education by 2030 will be attained.
Mary Salome Namirembe,